No Discipline = No Love
2 Thessalonians 3
On the flight home from Honduras there was a sitcom about discipline. The title of the sitcom was “Yes Dear.” It involved two couples with young children. The son of one couple lied to the mother and they were discussing how to discipline him. They first tried to reason with the five year old. That failed. Then the father tried a fear tactic. He said he would make his son sorry if he did it again. The son lied again. This time they discussed spanking. One mother said it was immoral and psychologically damaging. The other mother said that she was spanked as a child and didn’t think it hurt her too much. They tried a spanking. The dad did it and he acted like he felt horrible about it. But he didn’t want to raise a liar so he told his son that every time he lied he would get another spanking. Afterward the son came to him and the dad apologized for it and promised him to go ride go-carts that afternoon. The son lied again. This time neither the mom nor the dad would spank him. But when the son came in to go ride go-carts the dad said, “I’m not taking you to ride go-carts.” The son said, “But you promised!” And the dad said, “I lied. Now how does that feel?” The son was sent to the room to think about it. Then both the mom and dad decided that since spanking didn’t work they would never spank again, but would use a more appropriate punishment.
I was both amused and disgusted. Where are people getting their directions for raising children today? Wouldn’t it be nice if children were all born with an instruction manual? God’s word provides just such a manual for raising children in his Word. One of the best books in the Bible for child rearing is the book of Proverbs. But this is not a lesson on disciplining unruly children, this lesson is about disciplining unruly Christians. Another important question is raised: Where are churches getting their directions for raising faithful Christians today? We see in this final chapter of 2 Thessalonians some specific instructions about discipline for certain behaviors of Christians who are not walking according to the way God would have us walk. While spanking is not mentioned, discipline is.
In 1 Thess. 2:7-8, 10-12 we see the clear parental relationship that Paul, Silas and Timothy have with the church here. As a mother caring for her little children or a father deals with his own children we dealt with you! It is clear that this includes both encouragement and discipline. But now that "mom and dad" are not there, (in Paul and company), they must learn to practice discipline procedures among themselves.
Interestingly enough Paul writes this letter from Corinth. At the time of writing this letter to the Thessalonians, he is working hard to spread the gospel there in Corinth and is meeting with resistance. Later he writes letters to the Corinthians and his letters are filled with disciplinary procedures. Finally, in the close of his second letter to them he says he is coming to take care of things himself. Like a Father who tells his kids on the phone, "Just wait till I get home." Listen to his words that are just like a father toward unruly children. 2 Cor. 10:1-6; 12:14-15; 13:1-4. These are words of righteous indignation toward unruly children of God!
The early church had problems from without. But they also had problems from within. It is one thing to deal with an unruly person who is not a Christian, it is quite another thing to handle an unruly member of the church. Lets look at what God’s word tells us about this in 2 Thess 3.
Verses 1-5 set it up for us nicely.
2 Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;
2 and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.
5 And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
This word “command” in verse 4 is important. This refers to the Christian’s charge for how to live in Christ. Paul, Silas and Timothy have not just left them an example. They have not just told them about the love of God in Christ and the saving work of Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection. They have not just led them to become Christians. They have given them the commands of God for Christian living: The commands of Christian love and how to show it to one another and share it with the lost until Jesus comes. Anyone disobeying these commands threatens the community of Christ and endangers the mission of the church.
Jesus left us with this charge, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you…”
Don’t you love the way he encourages them here? …we have confidence in the Lord that you are doing it and will keep doing what we command.
Then he says this prayer before the discipline section: may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
They need this to perform what he is about to command next.
2 Th 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.
7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,
8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you;
9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example.
10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat.
11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
14 And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame.
15 And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
What is going on? Because some of them thought Jesus was coming back in the next few weeks, they quit work and were mooching off of others in the Church. They were not unable to work. They were truant from work. God’s pattern for work is six days of work and one day off for rest. Because of the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday, we have two day weekends. Whatever. Work is good in the sight of God. He is working and his children are to be working. When God’s children follow his pattern of work and worship, we find the most fulfillment in our lives. King Solomon discovered this in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Eccl 3:12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; 13 moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor-- it is the gift of God.
Eccl 5:18 Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. 19 Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.
When God made man he immediately gave him a job. Name the animals and care for the garden. When we stop working, we begin to find things to do that we shouldn’t do. Work directs our attention and energy in positive, productive ways. We need to work. Paul tells the thief in Ephesians 4:28, stop stealing and work with your hands so that you can have something to give to those in need! We are happier when we have a job. Others are probably happier when we have a job too. One warning: if we honor God with our work we do not give up worship for our work. Worship is not to be replaced with work. Some of God’s people in the Old Testament tended to get so busy working that they neglected the Sabbath. God placed the day of worship on a higher standard than the six days of work. He sanctified that day. So while we should work, we must not let work take over.
But enough about work, what does this tell us about discipline for the Christian who is unruly? In this case, one who quits work and becomes a busy-body, breaking the commands and traditions handed down by God’s apostles. What is the church to do? Look at verse 6 and verses 14-15.
Do you think this was easy? I don’t think so. This church loved one another deeply. But they must now practice that love in a very uncomfortable way toward those among them that were not following the commands. They had to give them a clear message that showed them that they were acting unacceptably. Shunning. Is it Christian to shun another person? Is it loving to distance yourself from a Christian who misbehaves? What does this teach?
Where there is no discipline there is no love. Where there is no discipline Christianity falls apart and fails. Discipline is part of loving and growing in Christ. Those who will not receive discipline will not grow. The church that allows its members to live unruly and refuses to practice discipline does violence to the cause of Christ and loses their influence for good in the world.
Undisciplined parents can’t raise disciplined children. Undisciplined churches can’t raise disciplined Christians.
But by God’s grace, the church that heeds God’s word and walks, works, and worships according to God’s commands will shine with disciplined disciples within her who enjoy the peace and love that nearness to God can bring.
Faithfulness is filled with good fruit. Unruliness is filled with rot. By God’s grace we will obey God’s commands here at this church.
2 Th 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.